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Jan. 22: Carnegie Mellon History Ph.D. Wins 2010 Heinz Dissertation Award


Shilo Raube        

Carnegie Mellon History Ph.D. Wins
2010 Heinz Dissertation Award

PITTSBURGH—Jessie B. Ramey, who earned her doctor's degree in history from Carnegie Mellon University in 2009, has won the National Academy of Social Insurance's (NASI) 18th Annual John Heinz Dissertation Award. The award is given to the best doctoral dissertation each year in the social insurance field. Ramey's winning dissertation, "A Childcare Crisis: Poor Black and White Families and Orphanages in Pittsburgh, 1878-1929," re-conceptualized orphanages as vehicles of child care and explored the development of institutional child care.  
Ramey was nominated by Carnegie Mellon History Professor Steven Schlossman. Tera W. Hunter, formerly of Carnegie Mellon and now a professor of history at Princeton University, co-chaired the dissertation committee, and Lisa Tetrault, assistant professor of history at Carnegie Mellon, served as the third reader.
"I'm thrilled to receive this award from the National Academy of Social Insurance," said Ramey, who accepted the award, which includes a $2,500 honorarium, during the NASI conference Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C. "It's particularly exciting to have my work as a historian recognized outside the discipline with an honor that has primarily been given to economists and social policy experts. I think it speaks volumes to Carnegie Mellon's excellence in interdisciplinary education."
Schlossman agreed and added that Ramey's research uncovered a unique perspective on how poor Americans used orphanages. "Jessie's dissertation contributes imaginatively to literatures on the history of childhood, the family and social welfare. She is especially persuasive in interpreting the role of orphanages as part of the history of child care in general, and in integrating themes of race, class, gender, religion and community into her analysis. Her work represents a unique blend of historical and social science techniques that will equally impress scholars in the humanities and more policy-oriented disciplines."
The John Heinz Dissertation Award is issued in honor of the late Senator John Heinz, who was a leading expert on, and advocate for, many social issues, including private pensions and health care and aging policy. The award selection committee was chaired by Robert Hudson of the Department of Social Welfare Policy at Boston University. Selection committee members included Christine Bishop of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, Rashi Fein of the Department of Social Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, and James Morone of the Department of Politics at Brown University.
Ramey received her bachelor's degree in social history from Carnegie Mellon in 1991. She earned a master's degree in women's history from Sarah Lawrence College in 2002, and a master's degree in history from Carnegie Mellon in 2003. Ramey earned her Ph.D. in 2009, and is now a visiting scholar in women's studies at the University of Pittsburgh.
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